Evaluating the impact of projects that aim to be flexible and responsive is a challenge. One of the criteria for good impact evaluation is rigour. But such requirements for control are the antithesis of what is needed for responsive and adaptive programming. Is there a middle way, between relying on pre-defined theories of change and abandoning any hope altogether that they can cope with the open-ended nature of development?
Drawing on experiences of the Australia-Mekong NGO Engagement Platform and borrowing from the data-centred approaches of the commercial sector, this paper argues that there is a useful role for ‘loose’ theories of change.